I have considered creating a new open access, on-line journal for several years now, but it was only recently that I started converting the idea into action. Peter Ludlow’s compelling piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education on open access and the Aaron Swartz tragedy finally provided me with the extra motivation needed to try and get something started. I feel like the time is ripe for a change. It’s unacceptable that philosophers often publish in (and referee articles for) journals that charge so much for subscriptions that many colleges and universities can’t afford them. The success of Philosopher’s Imprint makes it clear that there is a demand for first-rate, open access philosophy journals. So, it is very exciting that several new open access journals have been launched in the past few years—e.g., Ergo, Journal of Practical Ethics, and Philosophy & Theory in Biology.
But there are still a number of otherwise useful technological tools that are being underutilized—e.g., the multi-media capacities of blogs or the ability of blogs to capture philosophy in action, so to speak. So, while the recent trend towards open access philosophy is a positive one for our field (see here and here for information on the open access movement more generally), I think more could be done to help the movement grow by better utilizing the technological tools we already have at hand.
The overarching goal of Philosophical Exchanges would be to create and sustain an open-access, peer-reviewed, on-line philosophy journal modeled after the first two on-line philosophy conferences (see here and here) as well as the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Philosophical Exchanges would combine elements of traditional academic publishing with elements from the blogosphere and the web more generally. Each article would be officially published (in pdf format—with official headers and footers, volume number, page numbers, etc.) along with invited commentary from two to three commentators per article. The authors and commentators would agree to spend one month (or two weeks, or whatever we decide is reasonable) participating in the comment threads. The novelty is that the entire philosophical exchange would be preserved for posterity. Comment threads would be (carefully) monitored by both the editor(s) and the authors of the individual posts while the threads are active.
One of the primary goals of Philosophical Exchanges will be to reach as wide of an on-line audience as possible by striving to ensure that the journal is genuinely committed from the start to philosophical pluralism (both in terms of content and methodology). Hopefully, by welcoming submissions from scholars working in all areas of philosophy—especially from philosophers working in fields and approaches that have traditionally been marginalized—we can be more inclusive than many of the top philosophy journals.
Another primary (and related) goal of Philosophical Exchanges will be to help address the discipline’s shameful and increasingly visible problem when it comes to the underrepresentation of women and minorities. Both because we will strive for philosophical pluralism and because we have the ability to recruit invited commentators, we will hopefully be able to do a better job ensuring that the pool of authors and commentators who contribute to Philosophical Exchanges is as diverse as possible.
I am already working with several partners—e.g., our library at College of Charleston, the Low Country Digital Library, and the Public Knowledge Project—to set up the basic infrastructure of the journal using the Open Journal System platform. Several philosophers have already generously agreed to be on the editorial board (with more invitations in the works). But as we continue putting some of the basic technological pieces together (which is going to take a while), I thought it made sense to use some of my time here on Leiter Reports this week to ask the philosophical community what, if anything, they would like to see out of a new journal like Philosophical Exchanges (if they would like to see anything at all).
I am going to post tomorrow about the budget, funding, etc.—which is a tricky issue, as we’ll see. For now, I am mostly interested in hearing from people who have ideas about ways to ensure that Philosophical Exchanges better serves the philosophical community. There are several issues that merit attention: For instance, does the community want and need a new journal of the sort I envision? If not, then it would be good to know before we spend the time to get it up and running! If so, what would keep people from submitting (or conversely, what would encourage people to submit)? Some other issues: should the journal be both pluralist and interdisciplinary? Should the journal be generalist in addition to pluralist? We are planning to have a homepage for the journal with a separate dedicated blog. Does that seem problematic? What can we do to encourage people to apply to a new journal with a new format? Another issue I have been kicking around is the recruitment of referees (the goal is to use triple blind review, by the way). I have thought about having a registry of volunteers who sign up in advance via the journal homepage (or blog). Setting aside whether people would actually volunteer, does this seem like a good (or bad) idea?
Another important issue is how to ensure we accomplish the two goals I mentioned above—namely, ensuring that we publish a wide array of articles representing a plurality of philosophical approaches and ensuring that we try to use the journal as a vehicle for pro-actively addressing the underrepresentation of women and minorities in philosophy. How do we maximize the likelihood that we’re successful on both fronts? Or is there something problematic with trying to use a journal to accomplish these goals? If so, what are the issues that arise on this front?
It would be great to hear the readers’ thoughts on these and related issues. If you’ve already had experience publishing in some of the online journals that are already out there, I welcome any thoughts about your experiences. The same can be said for those of you who have helped run an online journal. At this point, I am hoping to hear from as many folks as possible so that we can work to make sure that Philosophical Exchanges serves the philosophical community’s needs and interests.
p.s. If you’re interested in helping get Philosophical Exchanges up and running, please send me an email. We will need an army of area editors (as well as a number of associate editors).
p.p.s. I will be monitoring comments, so please be patient. Signed comments are preferred.